DietThe diet of water snakes is principally composed of fish, but frogs, salamanders and frog tadpoles are also commonly found in stomachs of water snakes upon dissection. A study by King (1939)3 showed that 35% of a population of water snakes had tadpoles and salamanders in their stomachs, besides all other types of prey.
Hunting in waterWater snakes weaves around in shallow waters with its mouth open waiting for any prey to come close by - within a few inches - so it can close its jaws around the prey. It also moves around on the underwater surface looking for prey in rook crevices and other hiding places (Drummond, 1983)4. Water snakes are foraging both day and night.
They have a compound in their saliva inhibiting coagulation of blood. The advantage from having an anti-clotting compound in its saliva is that when prey escapes it will leave a trail of blood that the water snake can follow.
Life cycleWater snakes mature when they are 2 to 3 years old. Mating takes place in the spring and snakes are born between August and October. Water snakes give birth to live snakes. The eggs hatch within the female body before the birth. Litters of about 20 snakes are common and the newborn snakes have a length of 8-12 inches on average.
Northern Water SnakeThe Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon) is found in many different types of freshwater habitats. It can be found near large rivers and small ponds as well. When conditions are good these snakes can be found in very high numbers. Its a relatively large snake with adult females reaching a length of almost 5 feet.
They can reach an age of approx. 7-8 years. Their litters have a size of anywhere from 10 to 40 snakes and new snakes are born during late summer and early fall. It is mainly feeding on fish and fish probably constitutes about 50% of its varied diet. Larger individuals also eat a lot of frogs while smaller individuals eat anything from invertebrates to small mammals.
Because of its vicious temperament the Northern Water Snake, as well as other Water Snakes, are not suitable for keeping as pets. As the Northern Water Snake is fairly common and share some similarities with the venomous cottonmouth snake, many are killed on the suspicion on being cottonmouths